Planning your wedding flowers may seem daunting, but it’s easier than you might think. You don’t have to be an expert or even know exactly what you want. You simply need to find an experienced wedding florist who will listen, guide you in the right directions, and bring your vision to life. Here’s how.

Ask friends, family members, and venue managers for their advice on the best wedding florists in the area. Then, call one or two to schedule a consultation. Most quality floral companies offer this service for free, and it’s an important step in the collaborative process. According to Walter Fedyshyn, Creative Design Manager at Phillip’s Flowers in Westmont, “Brides come in to see us up to a year in advance, but four to six months is a good rule of thumb.” In other words, once you’ve selected your venues and dresses, it’s time to call your florist.

The first floral meeting is your opportunity to get acquainted, ask questions, and begin the collaborative process. Bring colors or fabric swatches, a few pictures of flowers or designs you especially like, and an open mind. Set some parameters, but allow creative latitude, too. A great florist will exceed your expectations. Be honest about your budget, as well. But remember, your flowers and reception decor are what will set your wedding apart. So, plan on about ten to fifteen percent of your overall budget for flowers. An experienced florist can suggest a variety of options, the best seasonal values, and ways to get the most for your money. He or she will also help you focus on the big picture -- the blossoms, colors, style, and other elements that will tie everything together beautifully.

The collaborative process may begin with the bouquets and boutonnieres. You’ll be looking at these for years in photos. So, lean toward more classic designs that will stand the test of time. That doesn’t mean your bouquets need to be boring. It’s all about color and texture. Many brides still favor traditional white, ivory, or soft romantic shades, like pink, lavender, or peach. But, today, you’ll also see much bolder palettes, including purples, plums, citrus, lime green, or deep reds and burgundy. It’s really up to you, and your florist can help you make the right choice.

The reception is much more of a party, where your flowers and decor can really shine. Here, your florist may recommend more dramatic and perhaps elevated designs, where the centerpieces, linens, lighting, and other elements all work together for maximum impact. You’ll still want to keep to your overall color scheme, but the reception flowers can expand on that theme, with trendier styles, textures, and accents. Most wedding florists can offer you a variety of glassware, pedestals, votives, and more to complete the setting – often on a rental basis. They can also show you pictures or samples of different looks. In fact, many of the better wedding florists will offer to create a centerpiece or bouquet sample for little or no charge, to be sure you’re pleased with everything. Others will invite you to drop by shortly before the wedding to actually see the finished work in progress. So, don’t be surprised if it’s helpful to meet again.

What are some of the most popular flowers? “Roses, hydrangea, orchids, callas, peonies, tulips, lilies, stock, garden roses; the list is almost endless,” said Lee Scott, Wedding Designer at Phillip’s Flowers in Chicago. “We’re also seeing natural botanical elements, like succulents, hypericum, or Dusty Miller, and personal family items, such as a grandmother’s broach, incorporated into bouquets.”

Finally, don’t be concerned if your florist’s initial proposal isn’t quite perfect. He or she will probably be happy to make adjustments. The important thing is to find someone experienced, creative, and collaborative who will work with you to make your wedding flowers truly special.